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Cable Evening News Ignores Major HIV/AIDS Stories

April 22, 2014 10:02 am ET

Despite major developments in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and research in 2013, cable evening news shows devoted scant time to covering developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 2013. The lack of coverage of HIV/AIDS stories has continued into the first quarter of 2014.

There Have Been Major Developments In The Fight Against HIV/AIDS Since 2013

American South Is Facing An HIV "Epidemic." Though new HIV infections are on the decline through much of the United States, southern states continue to face an HIV "epidemic" due in part to lack of support and funding for basic HIV prevention and treatment efforts. [The New Yorker4/10/14]

Debate Intensifies Over Daily HIV Prevention Pill. Despite being approved as effective by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012, the daily HIV prevention pill Truvada has generated opposition from some HIV/AIDS activists, who fear Truvada's effectiveness may encourage users to engage in risky sexual behavior. [The New York Times12/30/13]

CDC Officials Agree To Stop Referring To Sex Without Condoms As "Unprotected Sex." In a January 23, 2014 phone meeting, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed to stop using the term "unprotected sex" to mean "sex without condoms," reflecting new HIV prevention and risk strategies. [The Bay Area Reporter2/13/14]

ACA Could Dramatically Alter Federal And State HIV Programs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) broadens healthcare for many Americans living with HIV, raising significant questions about the future of the landmark federal Ryan White program, which has primarily been used to purchase health coverage for uninsured HIV clients. Funding for the Ryan White program could be diverted for other HIV/AIDS efforts, or the program could face termination if it's no longer deemed necessary. [Stateline, 10/28/13]

Congress Fails To Reauthorize Ryan White CARE Act In 2013. Congress failed to reauthorize the Ryan White CARE Act on September 30, 2013. The law does not contain a sunset provision, meaning current funding levels will continue absent federal action. [SIECUS, accessed 4/21/14]

New WHO Treatment Guidelines Make 9 Million More Patients Eligible For Antiretroviral Drugs. New World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, announced in June of 2013, led to a 53 percent increase in the number of HIV/AIDS patients eligible for antiretroviral drugs. [The New York Times6/30/13]

Second Baby's HIV In Remission After Early Antiretroviral Drugs. A second baby's HIV was sent into remission as a result of being treated with antiretroviral drugs just after the child's birth. The success of the treatment follows an earlier case of a Mississippi child who was reportedly cured of HIV after undergoing early antiretroviral treatment. [RT, 3/6/14]

First Confirmed Case Of Lesbian HIV Transmission Reported. On March 13, federal health officials confirmed the first case of a lesbian transmission of HIV, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to advise that all infected people having sex with uninfected people stay on antiretroviral drugs. [The New York Times3/14/14]

Experimental Vaccine Apparently Cures 9 Of 16 Monkeys Infected With Close Relative Of HIV. An experimental new vaccine produced promising results after nine out of 16 test monkeys appeared to be "cleared" of the virus after receiving the treatment. [The New York Times9/16/13]

Study Shows Genes Could Be Altered To Fight Infection. A new report suggests that "gene editing," a treatment that disables particular human genes, might help people infected with HIV combat and even rid themselves of the virus. Researchers caution that widespread use of the technique as a treatment for HIV is still "a long way off." [The New York Times3/5/2014]

HIV Returns After Two Patients Appear Cured Through Bone-Marrow Transplants. Two patients in Boston appeared to have had their HIV in remission after receiving bone-marrow transplants for blood cancers. Unfortunately, their HIV returned months later. [The New York Times12/6/13]

Evening Cable News Ignored Major HIV/AIDS Stories In 2013

Cable News Networks Underreported HIV/AIDS Stories In 2013. According to a Media Matters analysis, between January 1 and December 31, 2013, weekday evening cable news shows significantly underreported major stories about HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and research. CNN discussed HIV/AIDS 11 times in 2013, with MSNBC and Fox News highlighting the issue four times:

Less Than Half Of HIV/AIDS Stories Featured Expert Commentary. Of the 19 discussions of HIV/AIDS on cable evening news during 2013, less than half featured commentary from an expert on HIV/AIDS.

Cable News Coverage Ignored Major HIV/AIDS Developments. Aside from six mentions of the baby whose HIV was in remission due to early antiretroviral drug treatment, evening cable news shows largely ignored significant developments in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Other mentions of HIV/AIDS included interviews with Magic Johnson, acknowledgments of World AIDS Day, and discussions of President George W. Bush's international AIDS work.

Cable News Ignored HIV/AIDS Stories In The First Quarter Of 2014. Between January 1 and March 31, 2014, CNN and MSNBC ran one story on HIV/AIDS during their weekday evening news shows. Fox News has yet to run an HIV/AIDS story during the first quarter of its 2014 evening news programming:

METHODOLOGY

Media Matters searched news transcripts on Nexis between January 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014, using the search term "allcaps(HIV) or allcaps (AIDS)" during CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News' weekday evening news broadcasts. All segments that focused on stories involving HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, research, and history were included. Crime stories involving HIV/AIDS, including the story of a man who was accused of knowingly infecting partners with HIV, were excluded. Passing mentions, teases for upcoming segments, and reruns were excluded. 

Evening cable news shows included in the study: The Situation RoomErin Burnett OutFrontAnderson Cooper 360Piers Morgan TonightCNN TonightThe FiveSpecial Report with Bret BaierOn The Record with Greta Van SusterenThe O'Reilly FactorThe Kelly FileHannityThe Ed ShowPolitics NationHardball with Chris MatthewsAll In with Chris HayesThe Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell.

For the purposes of the study, guests who were medical professionals, activists, or organizational leaders specializing in HIV/AIDS were considered "experts."